October 15, 2015

Most defaults go unchanged. They’re powerful.

The United States has low rates of organ donation because the process is opt-in. The European Union has high rates of organ donation because, in most member states, the process is opt-out.

A nerdy habit of mine while watching documentaries is pointing out when people’s docks are full of OS X’s default apps.

Most people don’t change defaults. That’s why so many registration forms have “send me spam mail forever” checked by default.

The defaults may be what some people genuinely want. And maybe some other people don’t know the defaults can be changed. Perhaps some further people just don’t care. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that most people don’t change defaults.

With the knowledge that most defaults go unchanged, creators can opt consumers into beneficial and perhaps also detrimental things.

Windows 10 just added another questionable default. By default, users now receive advertisements in their Start menu too, not just in their search bar and Start live tiles.

But of course Microsoft doesn’t call them advertisements. Calling them advertisements scored poorly in focus groups. They’re ‘suggestions.’

Microsoft knew most people wouldn’t opt-in to more advertising, so they turned them on by default. Now most people will keep them on forever.

Some people look past advertisements on Windows 10’s desktop because the operating system is free. But that logic requires the operating system being free. It’s not free. The basic package is $120. If you want to encrypt your personal files, a basic form of theft insurance for laptops, that requires the special $200 package.

To return Windows 10 to its desktop metaphor, by default, some of the desk drawers have advertisements. And now Microsoft’s put in another.

Microsoft also keeps rolling “Upgrade to Windows 10” adware into Windows 7, 8, and 8.1’s updates. They really want that “Windows-as-a-Service” gig CEO Satya Nadella brought up at a recent investor conference call.

It’s all quite disappointing.